By Joann M. Ringelstetter
Photography is certainly an artistic pursuit and I’m grateful to be able to use the creative right side of my brain when composing photographs as opposed to my analytical left-brained “real job” duties. But when we’re out on the back roads in search of a good photograph, there are other ways I find myself being creative. One of those ways is in quickly changing clothes when the weather changes.
In the spring, summer, and fall seasons, rain is often a possibility and, in fact, I enjoy photographing in a light rain, in spite of the challenges (see our previous blog post Just Call Her Mary Poppins). Often, I end up quickly donning my purple rain suit while huddled under the liftgate at the back of the car.
In the spring and fall, when the mornings are cold and crisp, I usually start the day with a turtleneck and long underwear. And then when it warms up later in the day, I need to change into something cooler.
Often, we are nowhere near a restroom of any kind when I decide I’m getting overheated, so I will stop the car on some quiet back road and swap shirts. Other times, I will bravely swap shirts in a busier place. On our trip to North Carolina last spring, we stopped at an old-fashioned dairy stand that wasn’t yet open for the season, and the afternoon was getting quite warm. So I decided to change into a short-sleeved shirt in front of the dairy stand. Ruth was just sitting there shaking her head because the side of the dairy stand was next to a very busy highway.
The most interesting quick change episodes, though, are the ones where I need to get rid of the long underwear. Recently, on an autumn trip to the Gays Mills area of Wisconsin, we stopped at Sunrise Orchards for some apples and the best apple cider donuts in the world. As we got out of the car in the parking lot, the conversation went like this:
Joann: “It’s getting warm. I need to remove my long underwear.”
Ruth: “Well, you can just change in their restroom.”
Joann: “Hmmm, what will I do with my long underwear on the way out of the restroom? Oh, I’ll just roll it up and no one will notice what I’m carrying.”
Ruth: “Unless I say loudly, ‘Is that your UNDERWEAR?!’”
This got us both laughing so hard, we almost got run over as we crossed the busy highway in front of the place.
The funniest episode, though, happened a couple days later on a rather warm autumn afternoon. I kept asking, “How much longer until we get to a restroom so I can change out of this long underwear?” And Ruth kept saying, “Not much longer,” but we kept stumbling on things to photograph. First there was an old town hall with an interesting history, which I learned from one of the workers I hunted up in the town garage next door.
Next, we stumbled on an old school with antique playground equipment and an old outhouse behind it. By this time, I was getting very overheated and thought I would just change in the outhouse. But it had sunk into the ground several feet and there was no way to get inside of it.
The school was now used as a forestry school and there was a tree forest behind the school with a nice walking trail going into the forest. It was a weekday and there was no one around, so I told Ruth that I just had to get my long underwear off. I said, “I’m going to go behind the school and change.” She said, “Okay, if anyone comes, I’ll blow the horn.”
The back of the school had a nice set of stone steps with a railing, so I removed my shoes and then hung onto the railing while I removed my jeans and my long underwear. Then I put my jeans back on and sat down on the steps to put my shoes on. Just as I returned to the car, another car pulled in and a woman got out to walk her dog. I jumped back in the car and the conversation went like this:
Joann: “Wow, that was close. I hate to think what would have happened if she had pulled up a minute sooner.”
Ruth (laughing hysterically): “You know, the minute you removed your pants and were standing on one foot removing your long underwear, I was going to blow the horn.”
Joann: “You wouldn’t have, would you?!”
Ruth: “Yes, I would have, but I thought that it might just scare you enough that you’d trip and bump your head on the stone steps.”
Even when I do have the privilege of changing clothes in an actual restroom, there are still challenges sometimes. I’ll never forget the time we were on a photography trip in the southeast portion of Wisconsin and I tried to use the restroom at a service station where we had purchased gas. This restroom was so tiny that there wasn’t enough room to change your mind, let alone your clothes. And as I was leaning back over the toilet in order to get the door open so I could exit, I heard a “plop” as my cell phone dropped from my jacket pocket into the toilet. Needless to say, I didn’t make any more phone calls that day.